TTS: The Top Shelf would like to welcome bestselling author, Jeff Lindsay to the blog! Jeff it’s great to have you!
Jeff: Thank you. It’s great to be had.
TTS: We’re here today not to talk about your Dexter series, but to talk about Billy Knight. I’m told that Tropical Depression was first published 20 years ago. Why did it take so long to re-visit Billy Knight?
Jeff: I am the biggest part of the problem. When I finish with something – when it’s written and published – I am all done with it, psychologically and practically. I never think about it; it’s like yesterday’s newspaper. But it didn’t seem to occur to anybody else, either, until recently.
TTS: Some say you mastered the suspense genre with the Dexter books. I haven’t read them yet but I feel you have a pretty good mastery with this book. I’ve read a lot of thrillers and very few have made the characters feel as real as you have. What would you say is the key to making characters realistic?
Jeff: I think it starts with empathy – I’ve always had a very high level. But that was definitely developed a lot further by my experience as an actor. When I write, I get inside my characters like an actor, inhabit them, and try to bring them into some kind of real, multi-dimensional life.
TTS: Was it an easy transition to go from a vigilante ex-cop to a vigilante murderer?
Jeff: Sure. Partly because neither one is a vigilante. Billy Knight is a reluctant hero – he knows how to do all that stuff from his experience as a cop; he just doesn’t want to do it, or anything else except go fishing. He gets dragged back into solving people’s problems for personal reasons – I like you, I owe you, etc. Vigilantes act because they have an over-developed sense of justice, and they’ve seen that the System failed to provide it. Dexter acts, not to assert Justice, but because he likes to kill people. It’s just our good fortune that he mostly kills people we think of as “bad.”
TTS: Now that you’re returning to Billy Knight, did you bring anything you felt you learned by writing the Dexter series to the table with Red Tide?
Jeff: My greatest ambition as a writer is to do my work, and get a little better with every book. I hope I’ve achieved that here – gotten a little better at Billy Knight than I was in Tropical Depression. The list of specific things I work on is long and maybe meaningless to a non-writer – paragraph spacing and timing, chapter hooks in and out, and so on. It’s mostly stuff a reader will notice without identifying it, I think.
TTS: On the same token, what do you feel you brought to Dexter from your experience writing Tropical Depression?
Jeff: Tropical Depression gave me some confidence, which I really needed. I tried something I thought was really hard, and I did it – and people liked it. I learned that my instincts were usually pretty good about how to put something across, how to make it work, stuff like that. So I started Dexter feeling a little more certainty about my chops.
TTS: What do you think fans of the Dexter series are going to love about Billy Knight?
Jeff: Wow. I hope they’ll love the characters, the pace, the story-telling – you know, the important stuff. One of the comments I get a lot about Dexter is, “I couldn’t put it down!” I hope readers get that with Tropical Depression, too.
TTS: Both the Dexter books and the Billy Knight books are thrillers. Do you see yourself delving into other genres?
Jeff: Oh, yeah, absolutely. If I can just convince the world that I can do it, I’d love to – but one of the problems, as I learned in acting, is type-casting; you had success doing this one thing, so that’s what you do. In a lot of ways that’s not a bad thing, because at least it means people like the way you do that thing. On the downside, I am identified with one genre, and it can be pretty hard to break away without injuring readers’ expectations. But I don’t really READ thrillers much – I like sci fi, fantasy, historical fiction. I’d like to delve there someday. I also have been working on some new theatre plays.
TTS: Every author has boundaries, even those that push them. What is one thing you’ll never incorporate into your books?
Jeff: I don’t want to say Never – but as a father and a writer I am extremely sensitive to anything affecting children. Even OVER-sensitive, actually. I can’t even listen to news stories about dead, mutilated, molested kids; I have to leave the room. So I really doubt I’d ever deal with that.
TTS: One more question before I ask you what’s next for you. If Billy Knight could say one thing to you ( without spoilers ), what would he say?
Jeff: Please, sir – I’d like more.
TTS: What’s next for you after this?
Jeff: I am planning a new series right now – in the same genre. I expect I’ll put out the word on it soon (you can get it soonest by following me on Twitter @dexterjeff). Other than that, as I said, I’d like to get back to doing some theatre. It’s an old love, and I miss it.
TTS: Jeff, it has been an absolute pleasure having you here. Thank you so much for joining us.
Jeff: Thank you!
NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Jeff Lindsay mastered suspense with his wildly addictive DEXTER series. Before that, however, there was former cop and current burnout Billy Knight. When a hostage situation turns deadly, Billy loses everything–his wife, his daughter, and his career. Devastated, he heads to Key West to put down his gun and pick up a rod and reel as a fishing boat captain. But former co-worker Roscoe McAuley isn’t ready to let Billy rest.
When Roscoe tells Billy that someone murdered his son, Billy sends him away. When Roscoe himself turns up dead a few weeks later, however, Billy can’t keep from getting sucked back into Los Angeles, and the streets that took so much from him.
Billy’s investigations into the death of a former cop, and his son, will take him up to the highest echelons of the LAPD, finding corruption at every level. It puts him on a collision course with the law, with his past, with his former fellow officers, and with the dark aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement. Jeff Lindsay’s considerable storytelling gifts are on full display, drawing the reader in with a mesmerizing style and a case with more dangerous blind curves than Mulholland Drive.
Billy Knight wants to ride out Key West’s slow-season with the occasional charter and the frequent beer. But when he discovers a dead body floating in the gulf, Billy gets drawn into a deadly plot of dark magic and profound evil. Along with his plucky, gun-happy friend, Nicky, and Anna, a resilient and mysterious survivor of her own horrors, Billy sets out to right the wrongs the police won’t, putting himself in mortal peril on the high seas.